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Uganda, Rwand, Tanzania - Itinerary Help Please

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Mar 21st, 2008, 09:26 PM
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Uganda, Rwand, Tanzania - Itinerary Help Please

ITINERARY QUESTIONS: UGANDA, RWANDA, TANZANIA, 2009

It was not long ago I discovered this forum and used it to plan my trip to Botswana and Namibia last summer. I received excellent advice on this board, and once again I am seeking the expert advice of fellow fodorites.

I pretty much have my wish list for Africa 2009 whittled down to something I think is manageable and I have some questions. The primary purposes of this trip are gorilla trekking and the wildebeest migration during calving season.

Iíll fly on SkyTeam, hopefully with miles. Even if I donít use miles, Iíll fly SkyTeam for the points. The easiest routes are to/from EBB and JRO. Iíll fly into one and out of the other, so suggestions that donít involve these arrival/departure cities (i.e. Kigali) donít really work for me. Total trip time will be 23-24 days including international travel. I plan to travel February 19/20 to March 13/14, 2009. I know Iím trying to fit a little too much in, and should limit this to two countries. However, I canít travel to Africa often, I prefer being on the go most of the time, and the moving around doesnít really bother me. But even to me, this appears a little rushed.

Hereís what Iím thinking:

ē Days 1-2 Depart U.S., arrive EBB. Overnight in Entebbe because the flight arrives around 9 pm; (1 night)
ē Day 3: Ngamba Island, full day including forest walk, and overnight (1 night);
ē Days 4-6: Fly to Bwindi, 2 gorilla treks (3 nights);
ē Days 7-9: Road transfer to PNV, 2 gorilla treks (3 nights); I looked into flights here, but the charter from Bwindi back to Entebbe, then a flight to Kigali, and then the drive from Kigali to PNV means even if flights are like clockwork, the travel time is just as long (or longer) than the drive.
ē Day 10: Overnight Kigali for early flight to the Serengeti the following morning (1 night);
ē Days 11-13: Loliondo area (3 nights)
ē Days 14-19: Ndutu area (5-6 nights)
ē Days 20-22: Mahale (3 nights)
ē Day 23: Arusha (1 night)

Questions:
1. If I depart on 2/19 or 2/20, that puts me in Tanzania around March 1st and in Mahale a little over a week later. Iím wondering if I should do this in reverse order so I can be in the southern Serengeti and Mahale in mid-late February instead of early March. For personal reasons I really donít want to push the whole trip up to an earlier date.
2. I think Iíd like to end with Mahale, but Iím a little concerned about the weather. They close mid-March, so Iím cutting it close as regards the rainy season. Hence my question about doing this in reverse order. But, March also starts the rainy season in Uganda and Rwanda, right? Will 2 or 3 weeks really make a difference?
3. I really want to go to Rwanda, but I also want to go to Ngamba. That could change if they discontinue the forest walks but for now letís assume that doesnít happen. If I werenít going to fly into Entebbe or didnít plan on including Ngamba, I might eliminate Uganda all together in favor of Rwanda but I donít think I want to do that. Should I therefore consider eliminating Rwanda? After all of the great trip reports Iíve read on Rwanda/PNV, Iím hesitant to eliminate it.
4. I originally considered including Murchison Falls and Kibale in the Uganda portion of the trip, but the travel time is pretty extensive, and then of course Iíd have to cut something else out of the trip. Is skipping these a mistake?
5. Is limiting my Rwanda experience to 3 days in PNV and a half day in Kigali at the Genocide Memorial a mistake? Iíve recently read some positive information on Akagera, although honestly Iíd not considered it before. I donít feel like Iím doing either Uganda or Rwanda justice with this itinerary, but I just cannot force myself to give up Tanzania.
6. What am I missing? Is there something I should be considering that I havenít? Yes, I know if I add something I then have to delete something.  But I just cannot be gone for more than three weeks, give or take a day or two.
7. Iíve been to Tanzania before and during that trip visited the Crater, so it is purposely omitted from this trip. But, I havenít been to Lake Manyara or to Tarangire. Is it a mistake to once again exclude them?

The scheduled flights to/from Mahale add a logistical consideration because they only run on Mondays and Thursdays. The flights to/from the U.S. also add a twist because the AMS-EBB and EBB-AMS direct flights are not operated on Thursday or Saturday and I donít see any reason to add a Nairobi connection into the equation.

Does the above itinerary make sense? If not, why? And, most importantly, should I start with Tanzania and end with the gorillas instead of the other way around? Any and all thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Dana
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Mar 26th, 2008, 09:53 AM
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You dont need to track the gorillas four times.

I booked a gorilla trek with tanzania safari with Abacus African vacations
www.abacusvacations.com and i tracked twice in Uganda and once in Rwanda.
I realised that one time in uganda and one time in Rwanda would have been sufficient just as abacus had advised.

3 days for rwanda is just sufficient.a part from gorillas and golden monkeys, the rest you will have seen them in Uganda.

Murchison falls of Uganda and kibale are great.i did not visit mahale as it was very far away from the northern circuit i did. it was a great trip.

If you eliminate murchison then do kibale forest for chimpanzees.Its great here.But we drove 8 hours from mnurchison to kibale and I was fine with it.

If you track gorillas once in Uganda and once in rwanda then you will have a nough time.


alternatively, you could fly to murchison falls and return to entebbe and then take a road drive to kibale and queen elizabeth np and bwindi as the driving distances here are shorter.

Any way i would advise to send your questions to these guys in uganda and will give practical advice.

Good Luck


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Mar 26th, 2008, 08:51 PM
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Oh boy, what an itinerary! I don't think it is too rushed, especially if you like to move around.

1. I would reverse as you are considering.

2. If Mahale closes, that says something. You have 4 gorilla visits so you can afford rain there more easily. I figure you are doing 2 Mahale visits. Will 2/3 weeks make a difference? I think with the wildebeest migration it could. As far as when it will rain, how much, and will the clouds be over you two to three weeks earlier or later, that's hard to answer.

I'll put in a rebuttal here to the suggestion that you don't have to do 4 gorilla visits. Of course that is true and you have to be aware of the costs, but if your pocket and your fitness allow it, then absolutely go for it. I practice what I preach. I think 4 visits in the rainy season is even more important if you can swing it.

3. If time and budget allow you to fit in Rwanda, I'd keep it. I certainly would advise you to keep it if you are going to do 4 gorilla visits. You may also want to visit the Never Again Memorial in Kigali, a unique and tremendously emotionally moving place. You can do that when you arrive in Kigali after your last gorilla visit. That would be yet another reason to keep Rwanda.

I saw Jim2000 mention golden monkeys, but I did not see that in your question. If you ended up omitting Uganda because Ngamba did not offer a chimp walk, then I'd suggest 3 gorilla visits and a golden monkey trip, all within Rwanda.

I notice you are flying Entebbe-Bwindi. Is that now a scheduled flight? If so, that makes Uganda more attractive.


4. Not including those places is not a mistake, just a choice based on time limits. Now you have 9 days in the Serengeti. If you did 6 nights, which is very substantial, that would free up 3 days for either MF or Kibale. Since you have Mahale, I would probably not do Kibale. But you may be able to spend all day with the chimps in Kibale and watch them wake up and build their nests at dusk, which is very cool. Feb for MF would be better than March, but I think you'd be there in March. I have not been to MF.

5. Good, you are doing the Memorial. That is a probably what the average visitor to Rwanda does. I don't think Akagera in March should take time from your Tanzania days. Nyungwe with lots of rain might be almost trecherous.

6. Missing? The crater if you have not been. You could divert just one night there. Your Serengeti days are more than average, but it looks like that's what you want and it's a good time to be there.

7. That explains the crater. You could do a night in Lake Manyara and do a night drive or canoeing/walking. Or Lake Eyasi and walk with the Hadzabe Bushmen, which I have not done.

This would be a power-packed itinerary! Can Bert of Fish Eagle do this for you? I believe that's who you used last time.
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Mar 26th, 2008, 09:05 PM
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Dana, I wish I were you. And if I were you, I would, as Lynn suggests, add the Crater for just one night if you haven't yet been. Crowded, touristy and not at all an intimate wildlife experience. However, it's still breathtaking and well worth visiting.

What a trip!
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Mar 27th, 2008, 06:33 AM
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Leely, speaking of wishes, I've wanted to ask you this. You mentioned that you changed jobs in part due to inspriration from your Africa travels (I think, if I am wrong, then I must have dreamed this.) You also mentioned that your new work does not provide a lot of travel opportunities. So I am wishing your daily work is very rewarding if you specifically sought it out for intrinsic rewards. Hope it is.

Now we have at least two members of the Wish We were Dana Club.

She has been to the crater and that's why it's lacking this time around.

Dana, if you did include Manyara or Tarangire, I wonder if driving there would fit in if you are flying to/from Serengeti and on to Mahale. I think you can fly from Manyara to the Serengeti but don't know about Tarangire. But it's not the best Tarangire time anyway.

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Mar 27th, 2008, 07:22 PM
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So many excellent choices . . . so little time. I just can°¶t decide what to do. The use of FF points for flights might dictate in which order I take this trip. I just booked outbound, and I could not get into JRO in BE so I booked into EBB. If JRO opens up I might change that. If not, I°¶ll go in the order originally planned.

Jim,
Thanks for your input. I suppose you°¶re right, 4 treks isn°¶t necessary, and I certainly wouldn°¶t do 4 if I were only going to either PNV or Bwindi. However, I just hate to go all the way to either PNV or Bwindi to only do one trek since that°¶s the primary activity at both. But golden monkeys replacing one of the PNV gorilla treks could be a good idea.

How long were you in Uganda? Did you post a trip report or photos?

Lynn,
I read Bill°¶s report (and your comments on that thread) and thought that while tracking the chimps in Mahale might be easier in the rain because they are closer, that the rain would have a more detrimental affect on gorilla tracking. Thus far I haven°¶t seen any reports that say the gorillas stay closer to the starting point when it°¶s raining!

Part of the reason for the original order of the itinerary was to end on the beach in Mahale. It just seems like a fitting end to the trip.

Neither my fitness level nor my bank account is in its prime at the moment, but I won°¶t let that stop me. Remember last year when I was asking just how fit one had to be to track the gorillas? Well, I°¶m not in any better shape now than I was then Éļ With respect to the bank account, well, I°¶m in the mortgage business, so you can just imagine Éľ

Entebbe-Bwindi is not a scheduled flight. It is charter, and it°¶s not cheap. But, it°¶s a pretty long drive and I am trying to maximize time. I may end up driving, but for now I°¶ve left the flight in.

The Memorial is actually one of the primary reasons for going to Rwanda; that and supporting the people and the country that was the subject of this horrible genocide. Plus, I can fly from Kigali to the Serengeti without first going to Arusha.

I know that I have a few extra days in the Serengeti, but I never tire of game drives. I am afraid if I do not spend at least a week in those wide open plains I will regret it. Contrary to some of the customers jacksid mentioned on another thread, I can°¶t wait to lie awake in my tent at night listening to the sounds of the bush. I will check out Lake Manyara. The above schedule is based on flying into Seronera and driving to Loliondo. I suppose I could fly from Kigali to Manyara, and then either fly to the Seronera airstrip and drive to Loliondo as planned, or drive to Loliondo. Well, that°¶s one of the reasons we use TAs, right? My trips are always logistical nightmares, and my TAs earn every penny they charge!

I am not using Bert from Fish Eagle. I am working with Eben. I did contact Bert before I started planning the trip, but Bert said since he wasn°¶t versed in either Uganda or Rwanda, that he didn°¶t feel properly qualified. Now, that°¶s an honest TA for you if I ever met one. He really was fantastic to work with, and I would of course recommend him to anybody booking a trip to Southern Africa.

Because gorilla tracking was such a big part of the trip I contacted Volcanoes Safaris, and because I wanted to go to Tanzania while the migration was in the southern Serengeti, I contacted Eben. I sent identical emails to both. Volcanoes basically emailed me a canned group itinerary, and Eben emailed back with some great ideas. Eben has been fantastic. We haven°¶t price anything yet, but he°¶s managed to fit in all of my crazy ideas into what I think is a manageable itinerary, and he listened to what I wanted to do. Once I knew I could fit in what I wanted in some manageable timeframe, I felt comfortable booking flights. Now, I°¶m down to the °ßtweaking°® so I thought I°¶d ask for advice from others who might have been to these locations during the times I will be there.

Thanks for your advice. As always, I really appreciate your input. When you wrote you were a member of the Wish We Were Dana Club I new I had a great trip planned!

Leely,

I'm glad you think it's a good trip. Why don't you join me?

I agree the Crater is breathtaking, and everyone should see it at least once.
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Mar 27th, 2008, 07:22 PM
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Dana, please forgive the momentary hijack.

Lynn, you are right. I'm still doing the same kind of thing, but more for what I believe is a helpful enterprise. I do feel much happier about going to work every day. However, the 2-weeks-of-vacation-a-year thing is a drag. My mind is racing, trying to come up with ways to get around it. Especially because (drumroll, please) I finally finished paying off my student loans last month. Am ready to celebrate! Would love to do so with a safari. Have been reading lifelist's thread with much interest. Will most likely wait a while, saving up money and precious, precious days off.

And now, back to Dana!
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Mar 27th, 2008, 07:49 PM
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Leely, With those loans paid off and eventually more vacation under your belt, maybe your wish to be like Dana and take this kind of trip will come true.

I'll check out Dana's comments next.
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Mar 27th, 2008, 08:43 PM
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I agree with you that I don't think the gorillas are nearer the bottom of the mountain in the rain.

Your thinking is clear to me now in trying to time the rain with the chimps for shorter hiking there. I was wondering about how slippery and tough the climbing is at Mahale with lots of rain. If the place closes that tells me that it is hard to get to the chimps. I would think there would still be people visiting Tanzania mid-March to the end of March so I don't think they close due to lack of guests. I am guessing it's poor conditions--not just hiking but overall viewing.

Ending with a beach makes sense too.

For Entebbe-Bwindi that can be a really, really long drive. The charter is expensive but if you were to drive and the do a private trip which stopped in Murch Falls and Kibale, that would probably be even more. But then if you did not go to Rwanda, that would rein in the costs. But now I read your worthy reasons for going to Rwanda and of course you don't want to nix that.

Back and forth and back and forth.

I don't think you can fly Kigali-Manyara. But you could fly into Arusha or Kilimanjaro and drive to Manyara, then fly out from Manyara to the Serengeti.

I did not think Fish Eagle did Rwanda and Uganda.

I am sure Eben has great insight on the rain and chimps issue and could steer you in the right direction. Or your ff miles could end up doing the steering. So you are using Kiliwarriors for the whole thing!

Glad to hear it has gone so well with Eben in the planning stages.
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Mar 27th, 2008, 09:05 PM
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Leely,
Drum Roll... congrats on paying off your student loans. A vacation to Africa would be a proper celebration. But, for now, I'll just lift my glass of wine (in hand as I type) and toast you.

Two weeks vacation...that stinks. But, it's long enough to join me either on the Uganda/Rwanda portion OR the Tanzania portion

Lynn,
Trying to time the rain is like trying to time which full moon cycle the wildebeest rutting or birthing will follow. Of course, that has to do with the rain as well. Ironic, that somebody living in the south who suffered such a drought last year is plagued by issues of rain!

I gave up trying to figure exactly when I thought calving would start, and decided that if I went later in the season at least there'd be lots of babie wildies running around, with plenty of predators following closely behind.

If anybody told me (including a TA)they could predict the perfect time, I'd think they were full of it.

You're correct that Mahale closing mid-March is what concerns me. But I might rather track in the mud in Mahale than in Bwindi. I am very undecided. There are pros and cons to both, and perhaps the flight availability will decide after all.

I also decided that since it was so close that I should go on my birthday, which is the beginning of March, hence the date of the trip, otherwise I'd just back the whole thing up a month and go in January-February. Plus, I can get two vacations in during a work calendar year. That's why I chose not to go in July/August. Any news on that trip? The preliminary itinerary sounded fantastic.

Your description of back and forth, is exactly what I went through originally. I thought I had it settled, and now I'm wondering. I do this every time. Does everybody go through this or just me?

I think the Coastal flight from Kigali to Seronera continues on to Manyara. I'll check with Eben to make sure.

Yes, I'm using Kiliwarriors for the whole thing, although we haven't priced anything yet, so hoepfully it comes in at a price where I can really afford to do it all. I really don't like to have lots of moving parts and try to piece things together with more than one TA or operator.



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Mar 28th, 2008, 08:36 AM
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Hello Dana,
I did 14 days in Uganda and rwanda while Tanzania 9 days.

In total I did 23 days tour but could shorten it if I wanted.

I have been quite busy so I did not post the trip report and pictures.

Golden monkeys could be a good substitute.Rwanda is very close to Bwindi so about three hours

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Mar 28th, 2008, 01:27 PM
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According to the Coastal schedule http://www.coastal.cc/flight_schedule.pdf, they can drop off at Manyara, but wouldn't Kigali-Manyara-Serengeti-Mahale be more backtracking than Kigali-Serengeti-Manyara-Mahale?
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Mar 28th, 2008, 02:34 PM
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Patty,
You're absolutely correct it's backtracking. When I posted I wasn't really thinking about the order of the trip. I guess I just automatically responded to Lynn's question, that I believed you could fly Kigali-Manyara because it was the same flight that went to Seronera.

I'll ask Eben to check it all out. Some of it might depend on where in the Serengeti I can get picked up for Mahale and at what cost. I think it's about $250, but I'm not really sure, and it might depend on where that pickup is, and whether others are being picked up also, or just me.

And of course you never know just how much time I have until I book that return flight. I really appreciated your help with that. When's your next trip? You seem to always be going somewhere wonderful.

Jim,
14 days in Uganda and Rwanda -- that sounds like a proper amount of time to do both countries justice. If I weren't so stuck on Mahale, I'd have more time in Uganda. I am definitely considering the golden monkeys. It is one of the things my TA suggested and I told him to add that 4th gorilla trek instead. Now after hearing your's and Lynn's suggestions, perhaps I should have listened to him in the first place!

I understand about being busy. Once you spend time planning a trip, then take the time off to take it, when you return life is quite hectic for a while. It took me months to post my last trip report and photos. When was your trip? Why do you say you could have made it shorter? I find I never have enough time when in Africa.

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Mar 29th, 2008, 04:36 AM
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for me i started with easten uganda visiting the source or river Nile and going to mbale.i could have omitted this as it was not as exciting as the western part of the country where I saw alot of wildlife with one of the best guides i have ever met!

Did you try to check out other TAs, I understand Volcanoes is very expensive.I inquired with them before getting Abacus African vacations and their price was almost double what I got with abacus and i dont think they could have done it better than Abacus.Tana at abacus was flexible and easy to work with.
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Mar 29th, 2008, 07:08 AM
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Dana,

I like your logic of going late enough to see the babies.

The endless tweaking and back and forth is part of many trips. But this one of yours has more variables to tweak than some.

Did you state that you always like to travel somewhere during your birthday? The back to back vacations should work well.

I am still planning on Aug 09 for gorillas. I am wondering about spending more time in Rwanda and less in Kenya for that trip.
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Mar 29th, 2008, 09:16 AM
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Hi Jim,
I'll remember that about eastern Uganda. Thanks for the tip.

What time of year did you go? I'm wondering if you've just returned and if so what the weather was like since I'll be there around this time next year.

Lynn,
In the past I've generally taken vacations during the summer. Even numbered years I spend with my nieces. They live in Chicago, and this is a tradition we started many years ago when they were little. We always spend a few weeks during their school vacation. They are now teenagers. Boy, they grew up fast.
I got into the habit of also taking a solo vacation during the summer the other years, but it isn't working out that well. For one thing, I really don't like traveling when everybody else in the U.S. is traveling due to school/summer holiday. It's also harder to be out of the office when everybody else is gone. Plus we have a restriction on how much vacation time you can use during any calendar year, even if you've carried over days. It seems like I'm always too busy to take a fews days off here and there. When I do, which is rarely, I either spend the time catching up on paperwork or end up working weekends to make up for it. And last but not least is the birthday thing.

A friend of mine's daughters also have March birthdays. A few years ago she started taking them on trips instead of having birthday parties. When her youngest was 6 and her oldest 9 we took them to Jamaica. We did this during their spring break, which is also in March. That is really what started the tradition. We started planning for Costa Rica in March, but my nieces' spring break didn't coincide with spring break here, so we moved the Costa Rica trip to the summer. It actually worked out quite well because we can now go for two weeks instead of one.

So, my taking a vacation by myself each March is a new decision on my part. I have a milestone birthday in 09, so I decided it was a good time to start a tradition of treating myself to a great birthday present. It won't always be to Africa unless I win the lottery, but it will always be somplace exciting.

Regarding your trip in August 09. What are your thoughts on Rwanda? More time with the gorillas, or do you plan to see more of the country?
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Mar 29th, 2008, 05:06 PM
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Dana, I wondered about Costa Rica. Know I know. In Aug 09, I'd like to do about 2 nights Akagera, about 3 in Nyungwe, and 3-4 gorilla visits and a golden monkey visit. Then I'd see how Kenya fit in with time and $. Maybe I'd trade Akagera for some Kenya time.
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Mar 29th, 2008, 05:12 PM
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It looks like I am on the computer at 8:00 when it's lights out, but at my house it's only 7:00. I'll be done before 8:00 and lights out, electricity off for an hour.
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Mar 31st, 2008, 11:49 AM
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Dana,
Our next trip outside the US is to Europe in Nov/Dec. I was very tempted to add on a side trip to Africa (afterall we'd already be half way there). As it stands now, there's no Africa side trip but I reserve the right to change my mind Nothing else confirmed other than that. I have a deposit on an Antarctica cruise for Feb 2009 but haven't decided if we'll go. I may go back to Africa instead. We'll see. Your plans sound great. Good luck with your return flights!
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Mar 31st, 2008, 03:17 PM
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So Patty, if you were to add Africa, where would it be? >
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